Scientists working to protect hospital patients from drug-resistant bacterias

Scientists working to protect hospital patients from drug-resistant bacterias
Professor Colum Dunne from University of Limerick. Picture: Sean Curtin

A CORK professor is helping battle the spread of drug-resistant bacteria in hospitals.

Professor Colum Dunne from the University of Limerick is a member of a network of European experts examining the potential of antimicrobial coatings which can be used on textiles, including bed sheets and gowns, and solid surfaces such as walls, floors, beds and tables to protect against bacteria.

“New approaches are needed to protect hospital patients and healthcare staff. Antimicrobial coatings have great potential," Professor Dunne said.

"These are surfaces fortified with active ingredients that are responsible for the reduction and even elimination of microorganisms that come into contact with them”.

More than 60 universities, research institutes and companies from 26 European countries are participating in the network, which represents the first time this issue is being addressed on such a large scale.

Members of the AMiCI consortium are organised into five groups concentrating on different areas relating to antimicrobial materials.

They will examine the design and manufacture of antimicrobial materials, their performance testing, risk assessment, management and cleaning.

“While some materials, such as copper and silver, have recognised antimicrobial properties, there are promising new technologies for use in coatings. In this network, we will evaluate the impact of introducing these in healthcare facilities, their potential for impact on spread of infection, practical aspects of their regulation and use, and possible development of resistance,” Professor Dunne adds.

AMiCI is supported by the European Commission’s Cooperation in Science and Technology programme (COST) for four years.

Previous research, published by Professor Dunne and his colleagues, has reported the emergence of multidrug-resistant bacteria in Irish hospitals. It has also examined how outbreaks of these organisms have been successfully managed by infection prevention and control teams.

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